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Amorphous Ternary Charge-Cascade Molecules for Bulk Heterojunction Photovoltaics

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journal contribution
posted on 10.08.2017, 16:20 by Xavier A. Jeanbourquin, Aiman Rahmanudin, Xiaoyun Yu, Melissa Johnson, Néstor Guijarro, Liang Yao, Kevin Sivula
Ternary bulk heterojunctions with cascade-type energy-level configurations are of significant interest for further improving the power conversion efficiency (PCE) of organic solar cells. However, controlling the self-assembly in solution-processed ternary blends remains a key challenge. Herein, we leverage the ability to control the crystallinity of molecular semiconductors via a spiro linker to demonstrate a simple strategy suggested to drive the self-assembly of an ideal charge-cascade morphology. Spirobifluorene (SF) derivatives with optimized energy levels from diketopyrrolopyrrole (DPP) or perylenediimide (PDI) components, coded as SF-(DPP)4 and SF-(PDI)4, are synthesized and investigated for application as ternary components in the host blend of poly­(3-hexylthiophene-2,5-diyl):[6,6]­phenyl-C61-butyric acid methyl ester (P3HT:PCBM). Differential scanning calorimetry and X-ray/electron diffraction studies suggest that at low loadings (up to 5 wt %) the ternary component does not perturb crystallization of the donor:acceptor host blend. In photovoltaic devices, up to 36% improvement in the PCE (from 2.5% to 3.5%) is found when 1 wt % of either SF-(DPP)4 or SF-(PDI)4 is added, and this is attributed to an increase in the fill factor and open-circuit voltage, while at higher loadings, the PCE decreased because of a lower short-circuit current density. A comparison of the quantum efficiency measurements [where light absorption of SF-(DPP)4 was found to give up to 95% internal conversion] suggests that improvement due to enhanced light absorption or to better exciton harvesting via resonance energy transfer is unlikely. These data, together with the crystallinity results, support the inference that the SF compounds are excluded to the donor:acceptor interface by crystallization of the host blend. This conclusion is further supported by impedance spectroscopy and a longer measured charge-carrier lifetime in the ternary blend.